When it comes to abortion, politics shouldn’t be part of the discussion.
I had to have an abortion earlier this year as a humane act to prevent my baby from suffering. It was utterly devastating, especially after years of infertility and of wanting to be a mother.
I can’t imagine the additional trauma of a woman who doesn’t have access to an abortion, who has the decision taken from her of what to do for her baby and with her own body.
From as far back as I can remember, I had wanted to be a mom. My own mother set the model example for me for how to be a loving, nurturing, supportive, fun, funny, and unwavering mom. I couldn’t wait to become just like her and emulate the relationship I’ve been lucky enough to forge with her, with my own child.
Growing up, my sister and I would play house. We’d pick out our kids’ names and argue over whose pretend daughter was the smartest, the funniest, the better dancer. Although we thought our games were realistic, none of them incorporated the elements that were to become crucial parts of my story and journey to motherhood.
My husband and I naively started trying to conceive in September 2019. The very first month, I was convinced I was pregnant. We laughed about how easy it was for us and started feeling the close proximity to becoming parents.
But, the joke was on us. I wasn’t pregnant. And the next month, I wasn’t pregnant again. The third month, still not pregnant. After nine months, we saw a fertility specialist. We were put through test after test, month after month.
We were eventually diagnosed with unexplained infertility. Nothing was wrong. Sounds great, but if there’s nothing wrong, there’s nothing to fix.
We did our first IUI (intra-uterine insemination) in September 2020. It failed. The emotional and physical toll this took on me was too much for me to handle. My anxiety was at an all-time high. We decided to put the next IUI on hold until I felt mentally strong enough to accept another devastating rejection, if it was to come to that.
When we recovered, we did our second IUI. That one failed, too. The constant heartbreak got heavier and heavier with each attempt. We decided to take another break. Not only were our emotions reeling, but the cost of fertility treatments was beginning to affect our financial state.
During this break, a miracle happened. We conceived naturally! We found out I was finally pregnant in February 2021, due on October 27. We were elated, we couldn’t believe it, and we couldn’t have been more ready to welcome our baby into the world.
You’re “not supposed to” share your pregnancy until after the 12-week mark, after all of the initial testing is done and it’s deemed a viable pregnancy. We were so hesitant to share because of how difficult it was for us to get pregnant that we waited even longer, until 18 weeks, to tell our friends and family.
There are few moments that beat the feeling of sharing your excitement with the people you love. I recorded the moment I told my mom. I watch it back often, and I don’t know who was happier.
Everything was going well. I got through the first trimester and the morning sickness. We found out we were having a boy! We painted his room and picked his name. We bought his first onesie, a NY Rangers jersey, and I couldn’t resist buying a couple of cute decor items for his nursery. I started watching my baby bump grow and seeing what I looked like as a pregnant woman. My husband began talking to our baby through my belly at night, and we hung his first photos (our sonogram pictures) on our fridge.
At 19 weeks, I had my first anatomy scan. They saw something on that scan that would end up changing our lives forever. Over the next week and a half, we experienced true trauma.
At 19 weeks, I had my first anatomy scan. They saw something on that scan that would end up changing our lives forever.
Over the next week and a half, we experienced true trauma. We went back and forth into New York City from our Westchester home to a children’s hospital — a place no one ever wants to be in.
We were given the diagnosis by two high-risk prenatal doctors. There was a blood clot inside of a cyst on the umbilical cord. This is so rare that we could barely find information about our diagnosis online. Our doctors had seen UC blood clots and cysts independently, but never together. The chance of just having a blood clot alone is 0.0025%. I was basically patient 0.
We knew this wasn’t good. At any point the blood clot could cut off the supply from the umbilical cord to our baby, which would kill him. In addition, we were told that there would be a more than 85% chance that our child would have significant, life-threatening abnormalities.
All we wanted was our baby boy, but we knew we couldn’t act selfishly. We would not have been able to live with ourselves if we brought a child into this world who was set up for a painful, difficult, unhappy life. We knew we had to do what was best for our son, because our love for him outweighed our own desires.
On June 10th, I had an abortion. It was the worst, most traumatic, most painful experience of my life.
Because I was so far along at 20 weeks (5 months), the “easier” options were not available to me. I’ve never felt pain the way I did on that day.
Most women experience the worst pain of their life to then be met with their beautiful, healthy baby being placed on their chests. I experienced the worst pain of my life and then went home, empty. All I got to keep was a $12,000 bill and the heaviest heart I’ve ever felt. I do not regret my decision.
Most women experience the worst pain of their life to then be met with their beautiful, healthy baby being placed on their chests. I experienced the worst pain of my life and then went home, empty. All I got to keep was a $12,000 bill and the heaviest heart I’ve ever felt.
I do not regret my decision. In my mind, there was no decision. I would not have considered myself a good mom, but rather a selfish mom if I had brought my son into the world under the circumstances.
Our baby’s room remains empty. October 27 came and went with nothing but tears and heartache. Our sonogram photos, the only photos we have of our son, were taken down off the fridge and placed in a drawer.
We mourn the loss of our child every day.
This is just my story, and after learning of recent anti-abortion laws enacted in parts of the country, I consider myself incredibly lucky that I live in New York, where my experience was even an option.
I cannot imagine what our lives and our son’s life would be like —physically, mentally, and financially — if we were forced to have an unhealthy child. The recent Texas abortion ban, and now the Mississippi ban that is going to the Supreme Court, are devastating, horrifying, and dangerous. It is not a pro-life decision, it is an anti-human one.
One which shows no compassion, no empathy, and no care toward women’s and families’ stories and circumstances. Today, as I continue grieving over my unborn son, I also grieve for the helpless women who won’t have the option that I had.
Ashley Bitterman lives in Westchester, NY with her husband, whom she married 15 days after experiencing her loss. She has channeled her heartbreak into the Unexpecting podcast, to raise awareness for pregnancy and infant loss, bring comfort to those who feel alone, and to offer hope for the future. You can follow Ashley’s journey on Instagram @UnexpectingPodcast.
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